The Sheffield College has welcomed new national survey findings that demonstrate employers’ confidence in the FE sector to support an urgent need for skills.

Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) leaders are calling for government action to help them deal with Covid-19 and the Brexit transition period.

Over half of SME leaders say they will need to retrain their workforce to survive.  More than half (53%) say that Covid-19 is now their key concern; 44% say the skills gap is likely to increase due to the pandemic.

The Association of Colleges SME Survey 2020, released to mark Colleges Week from October 19th to 23rd, shows that 71% of SMEs believe colleges are important to business for training and retraining staff.

Meanwhile, 39% say they would look to train, retrain or upskill their employees through colleges, compared to 21% who would turn to a university or 13% online courses; and 44% believe colleges are best placed to skill their future workforce, compared to universities (22%) and schools (21%).

Almost one in two (45%) believe that it will become even more difficult to hire people with the right skills once the Brexit transition period has ended, and that the country’s skills gap will only get worse (44%).

Andrew Hartley, Executive Director of Commercial and Operations, The Sheffield College, said: “The survey findings are a strong endorsement of colleges and their vital role in helping the country get back on its feet again.”

He added: “We understand this is an uncertain and unsettling time given the double impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit on businesses. Colleges offer the vocational education and training that provides employers with the talent they need for a skills led recovery.”

The Sheffield College educates and trains more than 14,000 students a year and supports 2,400 employers. Around 900 employers are involved in apprenticeship programmes and 1,500 provide experience of work or industry placements and related opportunities. Adapting to the pandemic, the College has developed the Ahead programme, which comprises three online employability skills schemes to ensure students are working towards goals and have an employability progression route.